A movable festival, its schedule relies on the timing of the Jewish Passover.
It is widely known for penitents in elaborate mask and costumes.
Furthermore, it is listed as one of the intangible cultural properties in the country by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region (ICHCAP).
History of Moriones Festival
Moriones Festival comes from the word morion, a Spanish helmet named after Domingo Moriones. The word may also refer to the Moros who were sea pirates that attacked the towns of Marinduque during Spanish times.
In the festival, many literature use the word to indicate both the mask-costume, and the participant who wear mask and take part in the rituals.
The festival remembers the suffering, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Moreover it retells the story of Longinus, the Roman centurion who pierced Christ on the cross and was later (apocryphally) martyred.
The tradition of pugutan, which is the beheading of Longinus, began in 1870s by Fr. Dionisio Santiago in Mogpog, a town located in the northwestern side of the island of Marinduque.
Aside from Mogpog, the tradition is presently observed in the towns of Boac, Buenavista, Gasan, Santa Cruz, and Torrijos.
At the heart of the festival is panata, translated as vow or commitment. Penitents join the ritual to give thanks for favors received and to ask forgiveness for one’s sins.
They perform acts of penance such as wearing a bulky mask and heavy costume in hot outdoors for hours for several days. In disguise, they can be subjected to taunts especially from children who they in turn try to play pranks or intimidate.
They may also choose to volunteer to take the roles of Jesus and of the two thieves who carry crosses and are whipped during the reenactment.
Since 1960s and 1970s, Moriones Festival became more popular. Its promotion was championed by the government, particularly its involvement in 1972 as part of the presentation at Nayong Pilipino.
In the 1980s and the years hence, senakulo took its modern form as a theatrical dramatization presented in three nights in an amphitheater in the town of Boac.
Moriones Festival appeared in commemorative stamps issued by the Philippine Postal Corp. (PhlPost) on November 22, 2014.
In 2020 and 2021, the festival was on hiatus due to COVID-19.
Morion mask can be made of carved wood or papier-maché. It consists of two elements, face mask and helmet. The face mask covers the entire face and is painted with features of Roman soldiers or mercenaries, most commonly with facial hair and big eyes and Caucasian skin color.
Meanwhile the helmet can vary in embellishments including the use of cheek plates, longitudinal crests, and plumes.
In earlier years, people in Marinduque came up with home-made costumes from readily available and indigenous materials, a tradition that still remains especially in the town of Mogpog.
Starting in the 1960s with the rise of Samahan ng mga Morion (Order of Morions), costumes were inspired from Hollywood flicks and include suits of defined abs, breast plates, capes, pteruges, and robes. They are accessorized by lances, manacles, sandals, shields, swords, and whips.
Moriones Festival Schedule of Activities
What happens during Moriones Festival? It starts on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday. Different municipalities put out different schedules as what can be seen from this social media post.
Almost all of the events are religious in nature, although there are a few secular activities such as competitions for arts and Morion mask-making, film showing, parades, awards given to outstanding residents and organizations, and trade fairs.
Some of the highlights are discussed below.
Harana ng Morion
Harana ng Morion happens on Black Saturday where morions go around town and sing to businesses, stores, and stalls in exchange of spare coins or cash. They play a native musical instrument called kalutang, which is made of two wooden sticks that produce a certain pitch when struck against each other.
The tradition is said to allow penitents to earn some money that can help defray the cost of purchasing their costume and of their participation in the week-long affair.
Devotees hear the reading of Pasyon, which contains the narrative of how Jesus suffered, died, and resurrected. Some of its versions include the creation story. Because of its extended length, prayer-leaders work in shifts.
The town of Boac is popular with its senakulo, a dramatization based on Pasyon that lasts and is staged in three nights: Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, and Black Saturday. Good Friday is the day of Via Crucis where the story of Christ’s suffering is staged in the streets during daytime.
Its script was written in collaboration with then governor Carmencita Reyes, writers Celso Carunungan and Aura Mijares.
Actors mime throughout the play, a pre-recording of which was voiced by actors in radio drama in the 1980s. Their performance, based on the direction of Ed Alcantara, is held at Morion Park.
Pugotan, literally meaning beheading, is about Longinus, the Roman soldier who was tasked to pierce the body of Jesus with a lance. When Jesus’ blood flowed, it fell on and cured Longinus’ one blind eye.
He then on went about preaching about Jesus and caught the ire of Pontius Pilate who ordered him to be killed. Longinus was beheaded, becoming a martyr according to Roman Catholic tradition.
In Moriones Festival, Longinus figures prominently in Good Friday reenactment where he wounds the dying Jesus on the cross. In Boac’s senakulo, his martyrdom is played out in Black Saturday evening section.
Based on tradition however, morions who are playing the role of Roman soldiers would try to capture Longinus on the day of resurrection, that is Easter Sunday. The chase could be riotous as morions spread across town and spill into the streets to apprehend the escaping Longinus. The climax of pugotan is Longinus’ execution, culminating in his supposed decapitation.
Salubong, which means to meet, is a commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus. In Moriones Festival, it is held in early morning hours of Easter Sunday that culminates in a liturgical celebration.
One of the highlights is the end of the sorrows of Mary when Jesus has risen, symbolized by an angel lifting her shroud.
Traditional putong is a song and dance ritual as a way to welcome guests. Putong, also called tubong, is a homespun crown made of papier-marche or vine that is put on the head of the guest. The ritual concludes with giving or tossing of flowers and coins, and yelling, “Mabuhay!” (Long live!)
Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) is conducted in the streets on Good Friday and a dramatization of the stations of the Cross, such as scourging of Jesus at the pillar. Its pinnacle is the crucifixion and entombment.
Actors who are devotees who are either appointed or volunteers, their role and performance of it seen as a form of sacrifice. Morions are prominent in Via Crucis, as their given role is to persecute and guide the individuals carrying the cross to the Calvary.
Where to go
All six municipalities of Marinduque hold their own version of the Moriones Festival. Boac, the capital of the island-province, holds the dramatized senakulo for three evenings (Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday).
How to reach Marinduque
Marinduque can be reached via air and sea. Domestic flights are scheduled in Marinduque Airport regularly. One can also travel through trips on ship routes to many ports of the island such as Balanacan Port in Mogpog, Buyabod Port in Santa Cruz, and Cawit Port in Boac.
- Moriones Festival. Tourism Promotions Board Philippines. Retrieved July 30, 2022
- The Moriones. Municipality of Mogpog. Retrieved July 30, 2022
- Senakulo. National Museum of the Philippines. Retrieved July 31, 2022
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- Peterson, William. The Bloodless Head of Longinus: Political Interventions and the Decapitation of the Moriones Tradition in Marinduque. Budhi: A Journal of Ideas and Culture Vol. 10 No. 3. 2006. Ateneo de Manila University. Retrieved July 31, 2022
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- Macairan, Evelyn. PhlPost to issue stamps featuring festival masks. The Philippine Star. November 18, 2014. Retrieved August 2, 2022
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